Tuesday afternoon, word got out that the San Francisco 49ers had restructured Ahmad Brooks's contract. The move cleared over $2 million in cap space, leaving the 49ers with just over $9.9 million in space, per the NFLPA. $2 million of that belongs to Alex Boone, who was removed because he has not reported, so in reality you could say the 49ers $7.9 million in space.
Teams often try to keep $5 million of cap space in reserve to cover themselves in case of in-season emergencies. The 49ers have almost $3 million above that, which opens the door for a potential contract extension. The 49ers could decide to roll the money over to 2015, but it seems odd to move money into the future, just to roll the space forward to the future.
With that in mind, I thought I would take a look at the various players that could see a windfall because of this cap space. This includes primarily 2015 free agents, but also a couple notable potential 2016 free agents. I'll go through each player, and include some quick thoughts on why I think they could and could not get a new contract in the near future. When I say why each player will and will not get a new contract, I mean this strictly in the context of them getting one in the coming days with this new cap space.
Why he'll get a new contract: The 49ers might be happy with Joe Looney's development, but Alex Boone is still the guy they would much prefer to have at right guard. They know they cannot re-sign both Boone and Iupati, but they would like to retain one of the two. And Boone has the versatility to play guard and tackle. Given that he is holding out now with two seasons left on his deal, it is possible he is not looking for a monster deal, but rather a more modest bump that could fit in the 49ers financial plays.
Why he won't get a new contract: The 49ers do not want to show they will cave on a holdout, as it could set a bad precedent. We don't know Boone's contract desires, so it is still possible he wants a sizable bump. That's the hardest part about this is not knowing what he's looking for right now.
Why he'll get a new contract: He's been a huge weapon for Colin Kaepernick over the last two seasons. He has so many physical tools, including great hands, incredible balance, and a great ability to make things happen after the catch. He's not going to get a Megatron type deal, and the 49ers might be able to get a better deal BEFORE he goes out and has a monster 2014 season.
Why he won't get a new contract: Reports indicate the two sides are not near a deal. A deal could still get done, but if they are not close to a deal, the restructuring could be to sign somebody else in the short term.
Why he'll get a new contract: The 49ers want to reward a guy who is still playing well, and is a big contributor to their offense. He reported to training camp on time, and as we saw with Frank Gore, the 49ers are willing to re-negotiate with players who show up for training camp. Furthermore, a new deal for Davis could send a message to Alex Boone to report if he wants a new deal.
Why he won't get a new contract: He's getting older, and the 49ers cannot sign him for all that long with any new contract. At some point they need to figure out their future at tight end.
Why he'll get a new contract: Maybe he takes a hometown discount. That's really all I can think of with regard to Iupati.
Why he won't get a new contract: I just don't see the 49ers extending him, unless they can get a decent deal. Maybe they can, but the market for guards can get a little bit crazy, and with Alex Boone also looking for a new deal, it's not an easy deal to get done. And like Crabtree, the two sides are reported to not be near a deal.
Why he'll get a new contract: He's the front-runner to move into the starting lineup opposite Tramaine Brock. Given the easy little deal the 49ers did with Brock, we could very well see something similar with Culliver. Given his recent legal issues, it is possible the 49ers could get it done at a decent price. They might already know the punishment expected to come down and could know how to plan around it.
Why he won't get a new contract: The 49ers might prefer to wait and see how he looks in game action, so as to assess how his knee holds up. Additionally, given his legal issues, they may want to make sure he stays out of trouble the rest of the year.
Why he'll get a new contract: He has reportedly looked dominant in training camp, and we already know he is a phenomenal talent. He escaped his DUI and guns case with road work and probation. The 49ers might be willing to roll the dice with a discount on him now, and/or they will include numerous personal conduct clauses in the contract.
Why he won't get a new contract: I just don't see the 49ers giving him a deal until next offseason at the earliest. Unlike the players above (except Boone and Davis), the 49ers have control of Smith through 2015 thanks to the 5th year player option. They can wait and see how he does off the field, and figure this out next year.
The 49ers have a handful of other notable free agents. I've listed them down at the bottom. Frank Gore would not be the guy to benefit from this because any deal with him would further lower his cap number, as oppose to raising it. His 2014 cap figure is $6.45 million, so he won't be taking up more of that space. Glenn Dorsey is an interesting one. He turns 29 in a couple days, so he's still relatively young. However, the 49ers have so much potential depth along the defensive line, I would expect them to wait until the offseason if they do decide to try and re-sign him. I do hope the 49ers extend Blaine Gabbert another year to let that developmental process move along. However, even if they did work out an extension, it could very well be one that again helps lower his 2014 cap number.
Other than that, it's a mix of veterans and one-year free agents that will probably not get a new deal anytime soon. Here's the 49ers remaining 2015 free agents.